The foyer of the hotel was beautiful. The furniture matched the dark hardwood floors and beams, white walls and the cathedral ceiling. It reminded me of pictures I’d seen in brochures for Tahiti, not really what I’d expected from a hotel in Key West.
Not that I’d really known what to expect. I’d never left Alabama before. My first vacation out of state was supposed to have been for two—a romantic two weeks, secluded, private and intimate. With a resigned sigh, I dropped my bags at the reception desk.
The man who looked up at me was tall with short, black, spiky hair, sky-blue eyes and a beautiful, full-lipped but professional smile. His name tag declared him to be Simon.
“Hello, I’m Wilson Curtis,” I told him. “I have a reservation.”
“Ah, yes,” he said, typing on his keyboard. “Curtis and Mackey. We’ve been expecting you.”
I swallowed down the lump in my throat. “Actually, it’s just Curtis. The Mackey half isn’t coming.”
I tried to look like it didn’t bother me, like it was my choice to be here solo, but my faltering smile must have given me away. Simon stared at me for a long, uncomfortable second before seeming to remember his professional position. He handed me a key and said, “I’ll show you to your room.”
I’d chosen the smaller, more personal hotel for the privacy. There were only twelve rooms in all—that would have ensured we’d be left alone and not be under the prying eyes of too many others. Not that it mattered…not anymore. It was a gay-friendly hotel too, where we could have just been ourselves, without judgment, without fear.
Not that that mattered anymore either.
After walking out from behind the desk, Simon collected the bag from the floor near my feet. There was a smile in his eyes as he led me out through the foyer into a courtyard by the pool. “You’re in room seven,” he said, leading the way. There were small bungalow-style rooms off the pool, but the entire area opened out onto the sand and the Gulf of Mexico.
Simon smiled at my distraction at the view. “Restaurant is open noon ‘til two for lunch, from six ‘til ten for dinner. The bar is open from lunch ‘til late.” He waved his hand toward the poolside bar with a thatched roof.
He unlocked the door to my room, walked in and put my bag on the bed. The room was decked out in white, with dark floors, and the only color was the lime-green painting above the bed—the huge, king-sized bed.
It was beautiful.
Simon cleared his throat to get my attention. His dark hair, pale skin and blue eyes made for an interesting combination. There was absolutely no doubt he was a good-looking guy. “Not all our guests come here with a partner,” he said, somewhat diplomatically. “So please feel free to take a look around, and this afternoon, if you find yourself at the bar, you might find others who are…looking for company.”
I blinked at his blatant assumption. “Uh…”
“Enjoy your stay,” Simon added professionally. “And if you need anything, be sure to let me know. If I’m not here, any of the staff will help.” And with another smile, he turned and walked out, closing the door behind him.
I sat on the bed and took a deep breath. This wasn’t what it was supposed to be like. It wasn’t the vacation I’d planned, but when Rod had told me he wouldn’t be coming with me, I’d had two choices. I could either stay in Dalton, Alabama, and face an entire town full of people who had their homophobic pitchforks at the ready, or I could come to Key West and take the vacation by myself.
So that was just what I’d done.
Leaving my business in the trusted hands of my best friend Callie, I’d packed my bag, boarded a plane in Birmingham and sat next to an empty seat the entire way to Key West, Florida, for a two-week vacation.
I had no intention of spending the two weeks wallowing in self-pity. What was the point? Rod had made himself clear. We were through. And the more I thought about it, the more I wondered whether there had ever been an us at all.
So I unpacked my things and set off to have a look around.
The hotel opened directly onto the beach, so it seemed the logical place to start. I kicked off my shoes, hit the sand in bare feet and walked.
It was cathartic. The ocean, even without waves, still had an ebb and flow, a rhythm to it—it was cleansing. The blue sky looked better over the blue of the Gulf. I don’t know why, but life looked better when viewed over the blue of the ocean.
After I’d walked for long enough, feeling the hot sand and cool water on my feet, I found myself, just as Simon had suggested, sitting at the bar.
I waited until the bartender had finished serving the two guys before me. Nothing here seemed urgent. The bartender had a mop of unruly blond hair, a square jaw, sun-kissed skin, blue-green eyes and a contagious smile.
“Adam,” he introduced himself.
I smiled back at him and returned the courtesy. “Wilson Curtis.”
“What can I get you, Wil?”
Wil. There was only one other person who called me that. “Just a soda, thanks.”
He raised an eyebrow—I think my non-alcoholic drink choice threw him—but he served me with a smile. He joked that he didn’t think boys with a Southern accent like mine drank just soda. I rolled my eyes at him and he laughed. I soon learned Adam always smiled. He had an honest face. His smile made me smile.
He was quick to greet other guys, serving them cocktails and easy conversation, but always came back to me. Whether he was taking pity on me because I was there alone, or he was just excellent at his job, I didn’t know.
Over the next two days, I took in the sights of Key West during the day, went for walks along the beach in the afternoon and sat at the bar and talked to Adam at night. Simon joined us when he finished his shift each night and slid straight into the conversation. We discussed all sorts of things, from current affairs to movies, music and sports, but the conversations between us were fun and flirty.
The first time Simon walked behind the bar and kissed Adam, I almost died of heart failure. They were boyfriends, apparently. Adam chuckled at my reaction. I’d never seen guys kiss in front of me before and I’d almost choked on my drink.
Simon was more standoffish than Adam, but he wasn’t snobby. He was just quieter than the always-smiling, make-me-laugh Adam. They were an interesting couple, not that I was any kind of expert on gay couples, but it was easy to tell they adored each other. There was always a quick kiss, a touch on the arm, a smile. It was something I’d never experienced, and I envied them that. It really was beautiful to watch.